W HILE ASCE has been a big part of my life for more than 30 years, my fascination with engineering began much earlier. You see, my father was an engineer and a builder.
He learned the ropes of surveying and drafting by joining the
U.S. Forest Service after high
school, and he later worked on
the Pan-American Highway in
Costa Rica with the U.S. Bureau
of Public Roads (later subsumed
into the Federal Highway Administration). My family eventually moved to Phoenix, where
my dad enjoyed a fulfilling career in the city’s engineering department. Throughout his career, he was fortunate in having
good mentors, and he in turn
became a good mentor to me.
In today’s terms, I was a
nontraditional student in that
I did not enter college immediately after high school. I
started my career as a draftsman, and because they saw
potential, those around me at the time encouraged me
to work my way through college. The value of that ex-
perience and that support is something I try to share
with students who take a different path to engineer-
ing, as well as with those in a position to mentor them.
When I launched Woodson Engineering & Surveying more than 20 years ago, I ran it out of a spare bedroom
in my home. The vision was to have 10 or 12 employees
after a period of five years. We exceeded that at the two-year mark, and we are still going strong. Again, I often
share the memory of the humble beginnings of my company to encourage those just starting out to remember
that you are not alone. The relationships I formed within
ASCE over the years made such a difference in helping me
gain the confidence to start out and build my business, and
that confidence gave me a boost when times were tough.
As Theodore Roosevelt once noted, “Every man owes a
portion of his time and his income to the business or in-
dustry in which he earns a living.” For more than a decade
I’ve been active at the ASCE national board level and have
served as a member of the Transportation and Develop-
ment Institute’s Board of Governors. I’ve also held leader-
ship positions in other professional organizations and in
my community, including three years as a member of the
Flagstaff City Council. Serving on that council, I saw how
our decisions affected the community. This experience
taught me that engineers need to have a strong voice to be
heard. And to do that, we need to have a seat at the table.
As your 2016 president, I’m committed to moving
the Society forward by building on our initiatives to bet-
ter prepare our profession for today and tomorrow.
ASCE is the premier organization for civil engineers, and
we have many strengths and benefits to offer our members.
We have active local groups, a growing global member-
ship, highly respected technical groups and institutes, and
dynamic student chapters and younger member groups.
But if our profession is to truly speak with one voice,
we need to enlist more civil engineers to become mem-
bers by offering tangible benefits and services that will
improve their professional lives and give them what
they need to flourish at every stage of their careers. And
we need to do more to create an inclusive environment
within ASCE and within the civil engineering profes-
sion so that all members can meet their career goals and,
if so inclined, rise to leadership positions within ASCE.
We need to sustain ASCE by mentoring students in ele-
mentary school and high school. If we give them an insight
into the excitement and creativity of our work, these stu-
dents will perhaps consider careers in civil engineering. We
will need this younger generation to carry the torch forward.
But at the same time, we need to find ways to reengage
civil engineers who for some reason have been away from
ASCE and their profession. We need to help them reenter
the workplace and to provide them with resources through
ASCE that will ensure personal and professional growth.
As we look toward the future, we must think glob-
ally in our continued support of a more diverse mem-
bership and greater participation on the part of younger
members and student members. And we must leverage
technology to build face-to-face rapport with colleagues
from different countries and different generations. More
than ever, we are an interconnected global community.
Finally, let’s look at our profession, examine our
shared strategies and goals, and then channel our col-
lective influence as a unified body to achieve our
mission together. As Henry Ford once observed,
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping togeth-
er is progress; working together is success.”
—MARK W. WOODSON,
P.E., L.S., D. WRE, F.ASCE
Civil Engineering november 2015
Starting Small, Dreaming Big